Life or Something Like It
The $800 question
Published Thursday, 09-Oct-2008 in issue 1085
Once upon a time, I was a bona fide “Jersey Girl.” I had bangs that made me four inches taller. I let my manicurist (a woman working out of a spare bedroom) air-brush all sorts of designs on my nails.
I grew up in a town that, even today, is about 30 minutes from the nearest movie theaters and shopping malls. Even a trip to Target, about 40 miles away, is an all-afternoon affair.
My high school memories are peppered with flashbacks of monster-lifted pick-up trucks, confederate flags, drinking Zima at varying dirt pits in the woods and Z. Cavaricci pants. As soon as I was old enough to leave, I ran and never looked back.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, I have family members who continue to call that little town (otherwise known as exit 58 off the Garden State Parkway) home. My best friend from high school lives just outside Atlantic City (about 30 minutes south), a close friend from college lives about 30 miles north, and within the last year, my mom moved back to Jersey from Detroit.
Noting my mom’s fast-approaching birthday, I decided to suck it up and fly back for a few days. I haven’t been back to the Garden State in more than three years, and I figured now was as good a time as any.
A few days ago I decided to start looking on and running dates through Orbitz and checking specials on Expedia. The flight turned out to be reasonable enough: $311 round trip. The rental car, however, was another story: from $398 to $415 for the week. The daily rate wasn’t much of a break from the weekly rate.
Then I did the math: the $311 flight plus the $25 fee for checking luggage plus the $400 rental car plus the $60 in gas – in other words, approximately $800 for a trip to New Jersey. And that’s before I arrive.
I started looking into other ways to spend the $800. I could go to New Jersey, or:
I could spend five nights at an all inclusive resort in Cancun (flight included). I could spend three nights in Cabo. I could buy a new snowboard and season pass to Big Bear. I could pay rent, car insurance and my cell phone bill.
I could book an Elvis officiated wedding in Las Vegas.
According to Craigslist, $800 would get me a 1992 gold Buick Cutlass Supreme (mileage not listed); I could also invest in a 9-year-old mini-donkey (super friendly and personable – not nasty at all!). Or, I could buy the bassoon a girl in East County is selling. Woo hoo!
I could buy an 80-pound rattlesnake statue, an off-shore bait tank, or a digital copier.
For $300, I could be the proud new owner of a Wyco Concrete Vibrator (used, but still in good condition); the remaining $500 would be more than enough to purchase a pirate costume from the movie Peter Pan.
I could book a series of 13 colonics – surely more worthy of my hard-earned cash than spent on seven days in the Garden State.
$800 would get me a replica pair of Sarah Palin’s eyeglasses, three Juicy Couture handbags, or two bottles of a brand of French wine I’ll never be able to pronounce.
For $800, I could be the proud owner of a new pair of Manolo Blahniks. I could spend an hour on the phone with world renowned psychic Sylvia Brown, or I could buy 1,600 domestic draft beers at The Brass Rail on Sunday.
Realizing I’d practically made my decision, I began to imagine how the phone conversation with my mom would go, when I informed her in lieu of the trip home I opted to buy a rattlesnake statue.
Eventually it came down to a coin flip – heads, New Jersey, tails, infinite possibilities. Fate it seems isn’t on my side; a trip back east is in the cards. So, now I must suck it up. I must kiss my super-friendly donkey goodbye and resign myself to the fact I will not be the proud new owner of the 1992 gold Buick Cutlass Supreme, mileage not listed.
Cancun will have to wait.
Thankfully, there is an upside to all this. My all time favorite beer, Yuengling Lager, doesn’t ship to California, but it’s readily available in the Garden State. So, for the bargain basement price of $800 I’ll get to see the family, finally enjoy a decent slice of pizza, spend time with friends I haven’t seen in ages, and most importantly, kick back and enjoy a beer I haven’t had in years.
See, there is a bright side.
But between you and I, I’d still prefer the snowboard.

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